Culture

4 Canadian record store owners talk High Fidelity reboot

“I think it’s always interesting when there’s a gender flip in a story. I want to see how well they do with it.”

April 19, 2018

The news is out. Days ago, we learned that Disney’s upcoming Netflix-style streaming service could be remaking the  2000’s cult classic High Fidelity as a full-blown series. The original movie starred John Cusack as the misantropic but heartbroken owner of the Championship Vinyl record store, and it’s one that many a millennial and list-obsessed music nerd will remember fondly.

The twist? Disney are planning to do it with a female lead. Reports also indicate that the notoriously foul-mouthed movie might be cleaned up somewhat for mass viewing. The movie’s star himself, John Cusack, is a prolific Twitter user and soon threw his 2 cents in the ring, stating “The woman part seems good but the rest, not so much…” Clearly, he has his reservations.

Only time will tell if the film’s reboot can live up to the original (we’re crossing our fingers that it will). With Record Store Day fast approaching, we reached out to those folk across Canada who actually run independent record stores. Are they fans of the original movie? Do they see parallels with Rob Gordon’s struggles in 2018? Or is it just an annoying topic that pops up when you tell someone you work at a record store? Moreover, would they be tempted to watch a series re-make with a strong female lead?

Lisa Pereira — Owner at Female Treble (Toronto)

Lisa Pereira

Are you a High Fidelity fan?

I have read the book, but I wouldn’t call myself a big fan. I did hear about it being re-made last week, my feed suddenly had people posting about it being remade as a series — and with a woman as the lead! I was like, “They should have called me!” What’s really different about us though [at Female Treble] is how we’re a store inside a bar, so it’s a pretty different environment that I work in [compared to High Fidelity]. It’s more drinking and vinyl. You buy something, you have a beer.

Does High Fidelity tend to be an annoying topic that pops up when you tell someone you work at a record store?

I have read the book, but I wouldn’t call myself a big fan. I did hear about it being re-made last week, my feed suddenly had people posting about it being remade as a series — and with a woman as the lead! I was like, “They should have called me!” What’s really different about us though [at Female Treble] is how we’re a store inside a bar, so it’s a pretty different environment that I work in [compared to High Fidelity]. It’s more drinking and vinyl. You buy something, you have a beer.

Does High Fidelity tend to be an annoying topic that pops up when you tell someone you work at a record store?

I wouldn’t call it annoying, but it happens all the time. That’s just the way things arise in people’s minds, they make the obvious connection and yeah, it’s just a kind of pop culture parallel.  

Like in the movie, do you find Saturday shoppers are truly important to your store? Do customers tend to be obsessed young men? Also, has the likes of Discogs had an impact on your store?

Well, we are only open Friday to Sunday. I’ve been working in record stores for 15 years, and the industry really has changed. The buyers have also changed. The original guys that would have come in years ago — they’ve gotten married and don’t come in any more. There’s a huge variety in the types of buyers nowadays, and a lot more younger people. Demand has gone up and there’s a lot of records being pressed, but that’s inflated the value of new releases. We have to charge more too because of rent.

As for the likes of Discogs, it can be a double-edged sword. People have brought it up to me, but I’m just not ready to sell on it yet. I guess I’m just too stubborn and have too much faith in brick and mortar. Location plays a part in pricing too. Something might be really valuable to someone in Japan for example, but not so much in Toronto. Nowadays as record retailers, we have to deal with a lot of competition. We have to compete with Amazon too, with free delivery and everything.

Would you be tempted to watch a series version of High Fidelity with a strong female lead?  

Yeah, I’d probably watch the first episode any to see what it’s like — just out of curiosity. I’ve got to say I’m more of a fan of that Black Books show. That’s like someone made a show of my life! The main character [Dylan Moran’s excellent Bernard Black] is great, someone who just has spent waaay too much time in retail.

Daniel Hadley — Owner at Death of Vinyl (Montreal)

Death of Vinyl/ Facebook

Are you a High Fidelity fan?

I had read the book and saw the movie later — I’m a big fan of both! They’re different but captured some essential things about working in record stores in the 80s and 90s. Records stores are much less cranky now, but it’s a tribute to a type of store that had started to go by the wayside. It showcased the misanthropic and obsessive angles, and was really well done in both cases.

Is High Fidelity to be an annoying topic that pops up when you tell someone you work at a record store?

It does come up but I think it was because movie is such an iconic film for people of a certain age. Their kids might not have noticed it!

Like in the movie, do you find Saturday shoppers are truly important to your store? Do customers tend to be obsessed young men? Also, has the likes of Discogs had an impact on your store?

It’s a very important day. If it’s not Saturday, it’ll happen on Sunday. We do get people during the week: students, independent workers, unemployed people. But we get the 9-to-5ers on the weekend and they only get an hour or two. We try to enhance that with events, like DJs playing records out of our bins.

We get definitely people who come in and ask about really collectable things. Usually it’s a status thing by the person — a conversational gambit! It’s like a browsing declaration. “Do you have this album?” Maybe not, but then you can recommend something.

 

Discogs has been great for record stores because it’s levelled out the gouging going on. The expensive records are the very niche ones. They’re almost never going to find that in a record store. Unless we get in a great collection that you can milk for decades.

Would you be tempted to watch a series version of ‘High Fidelity’ with a strong female lead?

Absolutely. I think it’s always interesting when there’s a gender flip in a story — I want to see how well they do with it. At the store level, I think women’s participation has changed, especially in terms of women working at stores. I think it’s improved.

At Cheap Thrills [a small but much-loved local record store], one of the people who taught me so much about music was a lady in the early 80s. We should be past it as a topic now, basically. Sure, it’s a conversation needs to be had by society — if there are places that are in any way excluding — but most places in Montreal are employing a diverse staff, that I can think of.

 

Related Article

Kara Rogerson — Co-Manager at Ditch Records (Victoria)

Kara Rogerson / Ditch Records

Are you a High Fidelity fan?

Yeah it was definitely enjoyable!  It was one of those, “If I’m going to work in a record store, I need to see this movie” kind of moments. I could actually think of real people that the characters were emulating, so I could even put myself in the experience. It was great for that.


Is High Fidelity an annoying topic that pops up when you tell someone you work at a record store?

Occasionally! If it’s someone who is familiar and hung out in record stores, they’ll have that go-to reference, and it does come up. People will try to pick which character you are! If it’s someone doesn’t spend much time in record stores, not so much.

Do you find the Saturday shoppers are truly important to your store? Do they tend to be obsessed young men? How has Discogs impacted?

I would say there’s been a shift on the weekend. You get more of those people who work 9-5 during the week, and who can’t make it down (during the week). We also get a lot of tourists, it being Victoria. We also get a lot of people who are just cruising around downtown, and who just pop in on a Saturday if they see us.

We still very much get the hunters. I think it has slowed down a little with Discogs, and the amount of online buying you can do. We get less niche questions, or phone calls asking for something that I’ll look up, things that are super rare and out of print. That said, we do get random gems in the store. We price accordingly, and we do get some very excited people who are surprised to find it here — on an island! It’s totally rewarding and I love the excitement when someone finds something they’ve been looking for, for decades.

You will see someone find something in a bin, and be instantly on their phone comparing it on Discogs. It’s almost like a “Are we being fair?” kind of moment. I do think we try to be very fair with our prices. It’s a bit weird, but that’s the nature of shopping nowadays. We don’t sell or buy on Discogs, just use it as a reference.

Would you be tempted to watch a series version of High Fidelity with a strong female lead?

I would definitely. As a woman working in a record store, we are few and far between. It’s always refreshing to see that represented, either in another store or in media. As a record nerd, it would be appealing, and I’m curious how they’ll represent what working in a record store is like to the masses.

Dave Gowans — Co-Owner at Red Cat Records (Vancouver)

Are you a High Fidelity fan?

I think the movie was ridiculously over the top and super entertaining. I was a really big fan of the book! He (Nick Hornby) has a few books that are pretty great. I don’t know if I’d want to follow those characters day to day, a record store is still retail, so it’s pretty day-in, day-out. The best part was him sorting out his record collection —it’s so true. The avid record collectors that come in here, it’s really serious business to them.

Is High Fidelity an annoying topic that pops up when you tell someone you work at a record store?

For sure it comes up. “Is it like High Fidelity?” That is actually a statement that you do hear, but people like to talk about it. You also get a lot of people mentioning (the late, great Stuart McLean’s) The Vinyl Cafe, especially because my name is Dave too.

Like in the movie, do you find Saturday shoppers are truly important to your store? Do customers tend to be obsessed young men? Also, has the likes of Discogs had an impact on your store?

The Saturday thing definitely still exists. Now, we see a lot of “New Music Fridays” or “Global Release Fridays” or whatever, to make sure people have new releases for the weekend and it draws people in. That was people have more time to browse (over the weekend).

There’s elements of (the obsessives). Things have changed a lot with portals like Discogs and eBay, there are a lot of other ways to access a rare 7 inch by The Smiths or whatever. That said, if we put something like that out on the wall of the store — people will come for it. We had some Smith singles a while ago and people were like texting each other and telling us they were looking for this stuff since forever. For us (in Vancouver) we see a lot of international record collectors are really into the Vancouver punk stuff, you definitely still have that culture, especially when they’re here on vacation.

Discogs has changed how younger record collectors shop. They’re flipping through records and holding their phone, price checking things. “Hey, what’s the WiFi password?” It feels different.

Would you be tempted to watch a series version of High Fidelity with a strong female lead?

For sure — I think it would be cool. I would watch it if it got made, guaranteed. I think it’ll be interesting to see what the customers think of it. It’ll be a topic of discussion.

Exclusive videos, interviews, contests & more.

sign up for the a.side newsletter

sign up